AMITIAE - Friday 20 June 2014

A few Days in Langkawi (1) - Arrivals

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I decided to take a few days away from Bangkok and for some reason decided on Langkawi. I did all the booking online through a company called Orbitz and the journey down - with a couple of minor problems - was fine. I arrived at the hotel by the sea quite late but there was no rain as had been predicted. After unpacking, I sort of slept, but ordered a light breakfast for 07:30.


The journey started well as the flight was in the early afternoon, I had plenty of time to do the necessary tasks, including checks of the news: the major interest for me concerned the new camera features in iOS 8, so during the journey I pecked at that and wrote down some ideas that I uploaded Friday morning from the hotel.

At Suvarnhabumi Airport, I was early for the check-in, so sat on a bench to wait, going through the paperwork once again. A polite lady at the Cathay Pacific check-in desk had told me the Malaysia Airlines desk would open around 11:45 am, but 30 minutes before that time, a large group arrived and stood waiting, then another smaller group of travellers formed a second line. As the desk opened, there were five lines: Group travel, 2 for Economy class, Business and one marked "Internet".

There were only two people checking in at the internet desk, so I took a chance. When they were done, I asked the clerk, "Does Internet mean e-ticket?" It did, so within a couple of minutes I was done and headed for Immigration.

I needed a re-entry permit and had downloaded the form the day before from the Immigration web-site. After going up one set of stairs to check the bags, throw away the water bottle and be scanned by the polite staff, I went down another set of stairs where the immigration exit desks were located; and the desk for the re-entry visa.

I handed over the document, but after filling in the details on a computer and taking a photograph, the completed form (much tidier than mine) was ready for me to sign and he handed my hand-written one back. I handed over the fee (1200 baht) and within a couple of minutes the passport with the requisite stamp was handed back. The exit process was quite painless and that was completed in a couple of minutes too.

Inside the Departure lounge, I checked the Information desk for Gate details as this was not on the boarding pass. When I had that, I asked about Internet and was given a slip of paper with a login name and password: 1 hour access. As I was still using the 3G on the iPhone, the hour turned out to be quite enough.

The Malaysian Airways flight was smooth enough and we arrived in plenty of time, although it seems to me that Asian travellers are unable to follow any instructions: phones on, seatbelts undone the moment the plane has landed, walking about before the sign is off. Perhaps the airline regulations need revising. They were certainly not being enforced. What amuses me is the way that almost everyone stands waiting for the doors to open: 5 minutes or more sometimes. I stay in my seat: the advantage (if any) is only going to be slight.

I managed to lose my way in Kuala Lumpur airport as I did not need to exit: I was transferring to another plane. At the immigration area, I knew I had gone wrong, so when I saw an official checking on lines, I asked him. He patiently explained where I should go and walked me towards the area, pointing out the stairs I had to use.

I arrived at another Immigration desk where the friendly Immigration officer stamped my passport; then passed through a security check. The officer there was quite friendly and we talked about where I was going while he sent my belongings through the X-ray machine. A buzzer went off as I went through the gate and an officer did a closer scan: probably the shoes, he suggested.

The connecting flight was not for a couple of hours, so I found my way to the gate and sat. Near flight time a young man sat nearby and his iPhone 5 was connected to a MacBook Pro that was in his back-pack. He also used the Mac and connected to the internet. I had already used that with the iPhone and the free connection, with no login fuss, was for three hours. I later switched to the Mac and had another three hours allowed for that. Easier than Bangkok.


At the hotel, I asked about Internet and was told it was free in the lounge all day. When I asked about the room, the desk clerk was a little vague: not working properly, he suggested. He was right (see below): not strong and slightly intermittent. After unpacking, I tried the internet on the Mac and the iPhone and saw an open network, WiFIFree@Langkawi. It was a bit slow, but I was able to check mail, but did not want to spend too much time online as the bed was calling.


In the morning, I was awake just before breakfast arrived (how do I do that?) and ate on the balcony, with a nice view of a forested hill in front of the room. If I looked through the trees to the left, I could see the calm, flat sea.


During breakfast I saw a number of interesting birds including what I think was a sea eagle and a couple of large birds that I cannot yet identify: too slow with the camera for most of them, but I did manage to catch a couple of smaller birds having breakfast.

I tried the Internet in the room, only to find that the WiFIFree@Langkawi now needed a WAP2 password. In the list of other networks were a series of hotel room numbers. I tried one and was connected. There was a ZyXel modem sitting next to me on the desk, so I thought I would try. I connected the plug, turned it on and the lights flashed, with the "Internet" light changing from red to green. In the list shown on the Mac, my room number also appeared. I clicked on this and the Mac was online.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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